Yesterday was the first day at work for the new state Assembly in North Carolina, and already high level Republican members have filed legislation that would allow state officials from performing same-sex marriages.
Republican state Senator Phil Berger filed a bill that would allow magistrate's the ability to "opt-out" of performing same-sex marriages (and assistant and deputy registers from issuing marriage licenses) based on "sincerely held religious objections."
To avoid the appearance of discrimination, however, such recusal would last at least six month AND those individuals would have to opt-out of any marriages, straight or gay.
What we're talking about is trying to protect or at least recognize and provide an accommodation for people who have sincerely held beliefs that are protected by the First Amendment," Berger said in an interview with The Associated Press. "So what we're trying to is find a balance."
Democratic lawmakers and the gay-rights group Equality North Carolina said at a news conference such a recusal measure is discrimination in disguise against gays and lesbians.
"In North Carolina, gay marriage is legal and the magistrates who have sworn to administer these laws must do so equally and for everyone," said Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, a former assistant district attorney. He added that as an appointed prosecutor he couldn't choose or refuse to prosecute anyone based on personal religious beliefs.
Opponents of the bill say the legislation's ulterior motive is clear - to discriminate against a group of citizens. Plus, it opens the door for public officials to find other ways to avoid public duties.